“For me a lot of inspiration comes from movies, the feelings, colors and stories that movies can communicate really appeal to me… In movies you can use your imagination and loose yourself completely.”

Noortje de Keijzer, is an interior designer, stylist and set designer, as well as founder of NOORTJE, her own studio focused on minimal home furnishings. We hooked up at her beautiful design studio and home in Utrecht to talk about interiors, storytelling and her love of Wes Anderson movies.

Hi Noortje, we’d love to hear your Urban Tale…
I originally come from Roosendaal, a small village near the border of Belgium, very close to Antwerp. From a young age I’ve always been creative. I’ve always loved painting, making things, changing my room around, but also trying to create new things with simple and cheap materials.

After high school, I went to the design academy in Eindhoven. The study made me challenge my own creativity and taught me about the relationships between concepts, identity, design, materials and trends. Interior design was always an area I particularly liked, however, I liked so many other aspects of the creative world so I decided to get some experience in different fields via internships and work experience. For one internship I went to London where I got to work with Rob Ryan, a very talented artist working with paper cutting. There I learned more about illustration, which I loved, but I also learned that illustration is not among my strongest set of skills! London was great though, I loved living in such a vibrant, creative city!

Once I arrived back in Holland, I decided to gain some more work experience and ended up working with Frank Visser at studio Ijm, an Amsterdam based design studio that is specialised in photography, design and story telling. Frank works a lot with color and is always trying to create the right feeling and atmospheres. You often see that design studios buy their finished sets and materials, but Frank has always been very hands-on, buying vintage furniture and doing everything up himself. Working here really inspired me and the work really suited my creative skills. The story telling aspect especially grabbed me; the way that how very simply, with illustration, photography & styling you can engage people and tell a particular story that you want to tell.

The interior of your home is amazing and seems to tell a story too…
Thanks! This space used to be a cafe. At first we were living upstairs and noticed that the downstairs space had been unused for quite some time. We just loved the idea of living here, approached the landlord and got the go-ahead to move in.

The bar, which was left in tact when the cafe closed is not your typical piece of living room furniture but we didn’t need the extra space that removing it could give us, so decided to keep it. It’s quite a statement, but we love it. When thinking of our new interior, we were aiming for a loft feeling. The space has decorative ‘art-deco’ elements, wainscoting, and a lot of graphical lines – which are great, but at the same time something we really had to keep in mind. We used quite a lot of color, but none of them are too bright. We wanted our space to inspire, but at the same time feel relaxed and calm. I love color as it can bring a lot of depth to a space, many people have white walls nowadays, which I think is a shame! Objects can feel very ‘hard’ when placing them in front of a white wall. If you make your wall a similar tone to the object in front of it, perhaps your sofa, it can bring a lot of rest. The space at the back by the way, is our bedroom, it used to be a smoking room in the old days… That’s what we like most about this place, it’s undefinable character.

How did your own label ‘Noortje’ come about?
I basically felt a need for it. Before I started my own label, I had never really found a job that seemed to suit me 100%. When we were doing this place up, I worked at a few different places and did some freelance work on the side. This place actually really inspired me to create more and it literally gave me more space – I started designing and making things for ‘me’ again. Things went well and then I started making things for others too, selling my items in shops and now also via my own web-shop.

Can you take us through your creative and production process?
When I have an idea, it kind of comes together in my head and as I don’t have a big starters budget, I am forced to think creatively. My cushion and textile collection are very much focused on materials. I can see an amazing yarn or color and feel an urge to create something with it, so I’ll start experimenting with shapes to find a perfect pattern. I made a mini screen-printing frame, which allows me to freely print my shapes as I go. I basically buy a fabric, cut it to the right size, wash, iron and print it. Then I’ll heat it again to make sure the colors won’t fade in the washing. At this stage, I send the separate fabrics to a girl I know from my time at the academy who is now living in Estonia; she’s great and has a lot of technical expertise. We discuss the details together, then she’ll construct everything and send it back. Lastly it’s ready for me to add my labels, which are also all handmade. I find the details of my products very important, so I always want to make sure everything feels right… There is definitely a lot of love involved!

What role does emotion play when you create?
I think I always create from a certain emotion. I am a very intuitive maker…Sometimes even egocentric you could say. Often my work is created from a need to express my ideas and feelings or to fulfil a certain need. The cushions that I’ve made were created out of a need for a certain style of print and material for my own interior, I couldn’t find it anywhere so decided to make them myself!

What inspires you?
For me a lot of inspiration comes from movies, the feelings, colors and stories that movies can communicate really appeal to me. Wes Anderson movies particularly inspire me… You can see when a good art director manages to bring all the right elements together in one story. In movies you can use your imagination and loose yourself completely.

Are trends of any influence on your work?
Yes, they definitely are. I don’t follow trends closely, but unawarely I think they are always of influence. Even following all that’s happening on Pinterest puts me in direct contact to the latest developments in fashion, interior and design. It’s an interest of mine and just like fashion, interior is very much influenced by trends – you can see particular colors and moods that are current to certain periods of time. Trends always seem to come back as well, they are an interesting phenomenon.

Do you get in touch with other creatives around Utrecht?
For my label, I really like collaborating with other creatives and believe that together you can achieve more than you can alone… It can give a lot of energy! I made a ‘lemon cushion’ for example and approached two graphic designers to help me make little rhiso-printed cards to go with it. Also, we’ve been organising parties around our house every now and then and I always ask my friends to bring along their friends, which is a great way to get in touch with a new crowd!

How do you prepare for big styling projects?
For Kapitaal I was approached to design a complete new shop interior. With projects like this I always know that I am doing what I am doing for the right reasons. Thinking of new interiors and displays comes very naturally to me. I always look at the building, it’s function, it’s feeling, it’s light angles… Normally I sit down with the customer and have a little talk with them to find out their preferred style direction. With Carlien, the owner of Kapitaal, I started off on Pinterest with a shared board where we could both pin some inspiration images. Pinterest is a great way to visualise your first ideas, this is how I always work, as soon as I have an idea I’ll look for images. From this moment on, my mind starts flowing creatively and I’ll make some different sketches. I analyse and discuss the sketches with my customer and together we can work out the direction we’d like to follow. I’ll also make a colour plan, as for me colour is always very important. When you don’t have a big budget, colour is a great tool to turn something existing into something completely new! After this the proposal gets fine-tuned and I’ll approach a team of experts that can help me to realise the project.

For a graduation project in 2011, you created a ‘knitted boyfriend’, which was a huge success.
Can you tell us a little bit more about it?

Yes! It actually got a lot of media attention. the knitted boyfriend was on the Good Morning show in America, got featured in different papers and I was asked on several Dutch television shows. I didn’t say ‘yes’ to everything though as I didn’t want my project to loose its context. I created the knitted boyfriend during my graduation year. Back then I was single and noticed that I could feel a little lonely at times, especially during my stay in London. City life was rushed, there were moments of social pressure and life could sometimes even feel a little shallow. I noticed my lonely feelings played up during the ordinary moments of the day, like waking up in the mornings, having some breakfast or watching television in the evenings… Basically moments that I was alone at home without any distractions. The knitted boyfriend has been a great project with the intention to bring a smile on people’s faces, but also a project with a deeper message. During my graduation, I exhibited in Milan, was invited by the Institut Neerlandais in Paris and went to the biennale in Saint Etienne. Nowadays the knitted man is still in demand and has traveled to many different countries around the world.

How does social media influence you?
I think you can’t escape being part of it anymore. I think you have to be on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook nowadays and have both a blog and a website where you can present your products. For this reason, I find it very important to make my projects and images as visually attractive as possible. You can make amazing things, but if no-one can see or buy them, then what’s the point?

You create video’s for both your own label and commercial purposes. What’s your perspective on video for the future?
It started with the promo for the knitted boyfriend. I did this together with my boyfriend, Jorn, who is specialised in video. Looking back, we were just at the start of what we are doing now with it. Interestingly enough, you can see a change from the importance of photography and magazines, to the importance of video. Instagram and Facebook are full of short video’s nowadays, it’s all moving visuals. We don’t just present anymore with a basic PowerPoint, we want moving story boards. For me this is an important skill to develop. I believe it’s necessary to keep up with these developments, to be able to participate in the now and the future.

UT Final Five…

Most inspiring creative?
Frank Visser, Studio Ijm.

Most inspiring movie director?
Wes Anderson.

Favourite music right now?
Falco Benz. Piano and jazz I also like!

Insiders tip to Utrecht?
Just wonder around the old town, and keep your eyes out… You’ll see amazing houses, interiors and little gardens!

Life quote?
Be playful and never loose your humour!

Mirella Sahetapy, Noortje Knulst, Mirjam Bleeker, Anne Dokter


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